Sciences and Exploration Directorate

W. Dean Pesnell


W. Dean Pesnell's Contact Card & Information.
Phone: 301.286.4009
Org Code: 671
Mail Code 671
Greenbelt, MD 20771

Brief Bio

W. Dean Pesnell is the Project Scientist of the Solar Dynamics Observatory. He has published over 100 papers in a variety of research areas, including variable stars, sungrazing comets, the Sun-Earth connection, quantum mechanics, and meteors in planetary atmospheres. He received his Ph.D. in 1983 from the University of Florida. After a post-doc at the University of Colorado and a visiting professorship at New Mexico State University, Dr. Pesnell moved to Goddard as a contractor in 1990. He formed Nomad Research, Inc. in 1995 to do independent scientific research. One research contract was to help design the Living With a Star missions that would study the response of the Earth to solar activity. He started working on SDO in 2004 and became the Project Scientist in 2005. He has lectured extensively on solar activity, including the unusual minimum in solar activity from 2008-2009, and predicting solar activity.

Current Projects

Project Scientist for the Solar Dynamics Observatory


Ph. D. in Physics, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, 1983

B. S. in Physics, University of Delaware, Newark, DE, 1978

Professional Societies

American Astronomical Society

1984 - Present

American Geophysical Union

1991 - Present

American Meteorological Society

Member of Space Weather STAC

2006 - 2020


GSFC, Heliophysics Science Division Peer Award, September 2020

NASA, Silver Medal for Excellence in Public Outreach to the NASA 2017 Solar Eclipse Education Program Team, September 2018

NASA, Group Achievement Award to the Solar Dynamics Observatory Team, April 2017

NASA, Robert H. Goddard Honor Award for Science to the Solar Dynamics Observatory Team, March 2016

NASA, Group Achievement Award for the 2012 Venus Transit Outreach Team, August 2013

NASA, Robert H. Goddard Award for Exceptional Achievement for Leadership, April, 2013

NASA, Robert H. Goddard Award for the 2012 Venus Transit Outreach Team, January 2013

NASA, Group Achievement Award for the Solar Dynamics Observatory Science Investigation Teams, August 2012

NASA, Special Act - Individual Award, Education and Public Outreach, July 2012

NASA, Group Achievement Award for the TIMED/SEE Science Team, August 2011

NASA, Group Achievement Award for the Solar Dynamics Observatory Team, June 2011

AGU, 2008 Editors’ Citation for Excellence in Refereeing, July 2009

NASA, Group Achievement Award for the TIMED Team, May 2008

NASA, Special Act-Individual Award, May 2008

NASA, Group Achievement Award to the UARS Team, April 2006

NASA Civil Service/Contractor Team Award for TIMED mission, November, 2004

Special Experience

Project Scientist, Solar Dynamics Observatory, 2005-present

Selected Publications


2023. "Expanding the deep space network to support the heliophysics system observatory." Frontiers in Astronomy and Space Sciences 9 [10.3389/fspas.2022.1051527] [Journal Article/Letter]

2021. "Using Hilbert curves to organize, sample, and sonify solar data." American Journal of Physics 89 (10): 943-954 [10.1119/10.0005403] [Journal Article/Letter]

2021. "LORRI observations of waves in Pluto's atmosphere." Icarus 356 113825 [10.1016/j.icarus.2020.113825] [Journal Article/Letter]

2021. "SunCET: The Sun Coronal Ejection Tracker Concept." Journal of Space Weather and Space Climate 11 20 [10.1051/swsc/2021004] [Journal Article/Letter]

2020. "Lessons learned from predictions of Solar Cycle 24." Journal of Space Weather and Space Climate 10 60 [10.1051/swsc/2020060] [Journal Article/Letter]

2020. "A Note on the Opacity of the Sun’s Atmosphere." Atoms 8 (3): 37 [10.3390/atoms8030037] [Journal Article/Letter]

2019. "Characteristics of Ephemeral Coronal Holes." The Astrophysical Journal 880 (2): 98 [10.3847/1538-4357/ab27c1] [Journal Article/Letter]

2019. "A Time-Distance Helioseismology Method for Quasi-Linear Geometries." Solar Phys. 294 (11): 151 [10.1007/s11207-019-1547-y] [Journal Article/Letter]

2019. "Orbits through polytropes." American Journal of Physics 87 (6): 452-464 [10.1119/1.5093295] [Journal Article/Letter]

2018. "Effects of Version 2 of the International Sunspot Number on Naïve Predictions of Solar Cycle 25." Space Weather 16 (12): 1997-2003 [10.1029/2018sw002080] [Journal Article/Letter]

2018. "The flight of Newton's cannonball." American Journal of Physics 86 (5): 338-343 [10.1119/1.5027489] [Journal Article/Letter]

2016. "Flying through polytropes." American Journal of Physics 84 (3): 192-201 [10.1119/1.4939574] [Journal Article/Letter]

2016. "Predictions of Solar Cycle 24: How are we doing?." Space Weather 14 (1): 10-21 [10.1002/2015sw001304] [Journal Article/Letter]

2016. "Watching the Sun from Space." Asian Journal of Physics 25 (3): 233-265 [Journal Article/Letter]

2014. "Using Polar Coronal Hole Area Measurements to Determine the Solar Polar Magnetic Field Reversal in Solar Cycle 24." SOLAR PHYSICS 289 3381-3390 [10.1007/s11207-014-0541-7] [Journal Article/Letter]

2014. "Predicting Solar Cycle 24 Using a Geomagnetic Precursor Pair." SOLAR PHYSICS 289 2317-2331 [10.1007/s11207-013-0470-x] [Journal Article/Letter]

2014. "Time-Series Analysis of Supergranule Characteristics at Solar Minimum." SOLAR PHYSICS 289 1101-1113 [10.1007/s11207-013-0383-8] [Journal Article/Letter]

2014. "Deciphering Solar Magnetic Activity. I. On the Relationship Between the Sunspot Cycle and the Evolution of Small Magnetic Features." ASTROPHYSICAL JOURNAL 792 [10.1088/0004-637X/792/1/12] [Journal Article/Letter]

2014. "Areas of Polar Coronal Holes from 1996 Through 2010." Solar Physics 289 4047-4067 [10.1007/s11207-014-0564-0] [Journal Article/Letter]

2014. "Time-series analysis of supergranule characteristics at solar minimum,." Solar Physics 289 1101–1113 [doi: 10.1007/s11207-013-0383-8] [Journal Article/Letter]

2014. "Predicting Solar Cycle 24 with geomagnetic precursor pairs." Solar Physics 289 2317–2331 [doi: 10.1007/s11207-013-0470-x] [Journal Article/Letter]

2014. "Analysis of supergranule sizes and velocities using Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO)/Helioseismic Magnetic Imager (HMI) and Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO)/Michelson Doppler Imager (MDI) Dopplergrams." Solar Physics 289 11–25 [doi: 10.1007/s11207- 013-0330-8] [Journal Article/Letter]

2014. "The time-dependent chemistry of cometary debris in the solar corona." Ap. J. 785 50 [Full Text] [doi: 10.1088/0004-637X/785/1/50] [Journal Article/Letter]

2013. "Inter-hemispheric coupling during northern polar summer periods of 2002-2010 using TIMED/SABER measurements." JOURNAL OF ATMOSPHERIC AND SOLAR-TERRESTRIAL PHYSICS 104 277-284 [10.1016/j.jastp.2012.11.018] [Journal Article/Letter]

2013. "The Solar Dynamics Observatory after three years in orbit." 2013 IEEE Aerospace Conference 2013 1–9 [doi: 10.1109/AERO.2013.6497137] [Journal Article/Letter]

2013. "Inter-hemispheric coupling during northern polar summer periods of 2002–2010 using TIMED/SABER measurements." J. A. S.-T. P. 104 277–284 [doi: 10.1016/j.jastp.2012.11.018] [Journal Article/Letter]

2012. "Destruction of Sun-Grazing Comet C/2011 N3 (SOHO) Within the Low Solar Corona." Science 335 (6066): 324-328 [10.1126/science.1211688] [Journal Article/Letter]

2012. "Solar cycle predictions (Invited review),." Solar Physics 281 507–532 [doi: 10.1007/s11207- 012-9997-5] [Journal Article/Letter]

2012. "CO2(ν2)−O quenching rate coefficient derived from coincidental SABER/TIMED and Fort Collins lidar observations of the mesosphere and lower thermosphere." Atmos. Chem. Phys. 12 9013–9023 [Full Text] [doi: 10.5194/acp-12-9013-2012] [Journal Article/Letter]

2012. "The EUV emission from sun-grazing comets." Ap. J. 760 8 [Full Text] [doi: 10.1088/0004- 637X/760/1/18] [Journal Article/Letter]

2012. "The Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) Education and Outreach (E/PO) Program: Changing Perceptions One Program at a Time." Solar Physics 275 391-406 [10.1007/s11207-011-9917-0] [Journal Article/Letter]

2012. "The Extreme-ultraviolet Emission from Sun-grazing Comets." The Astrophysical Journal 760 [18-10.1088/0004-637X/760/1/18] [Journal Article/Letter]

2011. "The Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO)." Solar Physics 275 (1-2): 3-15 [10.1007/s11207-011-9841-3] [Journal Article/Letter]

2011. "Comparisons of Supergranule Characteristics During the Solar Minima of Cycles 22/23 and 23/24." Solar Physics 270 125-136 [Full Text] [10.1007/s11207-011-9718-5] [Journal Article/Letter]

2011. "Properties of Supergranulation During the Solar Minima of Cycles 22/23 and 23/24." Journal of Physics: Conference Series 271 2082 [Full Text] [10.1088/1742-6596/271/1/012082] [Journal Article/Letter]

2009. "Automated detection of EUV Polar Coronal Holes during Solar Cycle 23." Solar Physics 257 99-112 [10.1007/s11207-009-9369-y] [Journal Article/Letter]

2000. "Variation of Mesospheric Ozone during the Highly Relativistic Electron Event in May 1992 as Measured by the High Resolution Doppler Imager Instrument on UARS." J. Geophys. Res. 105 22943-22953 [Journal Article/Letter]

1999. "A Search of UARS Data for Ozone Depletions Caused by the Highly Relativistic Electron Precipitation Events of May 1992." J. Geophys. Res. 104 (A1): 165-175 [10.1029/1998JA900030] [Journal Article/Letter]


2013. "What Will Comet ISON Debris Teach Us About the Sun?." AAS/Solar Physics Division Meeting 44 #...34- [Proceedings]

2013. "What EUV Observations of Comet ISON Reveal About the Solar Corona." AGU Fall Meeting Abstracts A1787- [Proceedings]

2012. "The Journey of Sungrazing Comet Lovejoy." American Astronomical Society Meeting Abstracts #220 220 #525.07- [Proceedings]

2012. "The Solar Polar Coronal Holes in Solar Cycle 24." American Astronomical Society Meeting Abstracts #220 220 #202.01- [Proceedings]

2011. "Solar Polar Coronal Hole Areas Through the Past Solar Minimum." Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society 1825- [Proceedings]

2011. "The EUV Emission in Comet-Solar Corona Interactions." AGU Fall Meeting Abstracts 5- [Proceedings]

2009. "Recent STEREO Observations of Coronal Mass Ejections." AGU Fall Meeting Abstracts A1491- [Proceedings]

2007. "Family Science Night: Changing Perceptions One Family at a Time." American Astronomical Society Meeting 210, #0503; Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, Vol 38, p100 [Proceedings]

2006. "Sensitivity of IR Temperature Retrievals in the Polar Summer MLT to NLTE considerations." AGU Spring Meeting Abstracts A7- [Proceedings]

2005. "The Temperature Climatology of the Polar Mesosphere in 2002-2004 Using SABER/TIMED Data." AGU Fall Meeting Abstracts A1086- [Proceedings]

2002. "Cluster Ions as a Source of Layered Phenomena Near the Polar Summer Mesopause." AGU Spring Meeting Abstracts 83 (Abstract SA21A-03): [Proceedings]